Multiculturalism is different cultures or cultural identities within a Society that includes African-American, Asian American, European American, Jewish American, Latino/Chicano/Hispanic American, Native Americans, etc. This February is dedicated to the origins of African-American multiculturalism and the Founder of the professional non-profit organization ASALH (The Association for the Study of African American Life and History), Carter G. Woodson.
Woodson whom is known as the Father of Black History, pioneered an intellectual movement to educate Americans about cultural diversity and democracy. My opinion is that a large part of African American history includes literature in publication throughout educational institutions and made readily available to the public.
U.S. Society & Values: “The actual study of multicultural literature has come about gradually during the past three decades. A student in a representative university in the late 1960s might have come upon one or two writers, at most, in his American literature survey course. This was linked, as always, to the publishing industry, to what publishers in the United States were issuing, less than to racism and elitism. The first challenge within the academic community was to successfully argue the case for ethnic literature in the curriculum. The second was to convince publishers of the merits of this body of work. Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple and many other books, has recalled reading a photocopy version of Hurston's landmark novel in graduate school, and wondering why she had never heard of it, and moreover, why it wasn't available anywhere in print.” (click to read complete article)
Wikipedia: “African American literature is the body of literature produced in the United States by writers of African descent. The genre traces its origins to the works of such late 18th century writers as Phillis Wheatley and Olaudah Equiano, reaching early high points with slave narratives and the Harlem Renaissance, and continuing today with authors such as Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and Walter Mosley being ranked among the top writers in the United States. Among the themes and issues explored in African American literature are the role of African Americans within the larger American society, African-American culture, racism, slavery, and equality. African American writing has also tended to incorporate within itself oral forms such as spirituals, sermons, gospel music, blues and rap.
As African Americans' place in American society has changed over the centuries, so, too, have the foci of African American literature. Before the American Civil War, African American literature primarily focused on the issue of slavery, as indicated by the subgenre of slave narratives. At the turn of the 20th century, books by authors such as W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington debated whether to confront or appease racist attitudes in the United States. During the American Civil Rights movement, authors such as Richard Wright and Gwendolyn Brooks wrote about issues of racial segregation and black nationalism. Today, African American literature has become accepted as an integral part of American literature, with books such as Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, and Beloved by Toni Morrison achieving both best-selling and award-winning status.”
This month Binding Ink is pleased to have presented a three part series to include the first three African-American Poets in the U.S.: Lucy Terry, Jupiter Hammon, and Phillis Wheatley. However; “1There are, it seems, some differences of opinion even among scholars about where the study of black written poetry begins. Some, like Hughes and Bontemps in The Poetry of the Negro, begin with Lucy Terry, but The Negro Caravan, by Brown, Davis and Lee omits her altogether and opens with Phillis Wheatley. William H. Robinson acknowledges Terry in Early Black.”
Notably, historians also “disagree as to when the Harlem Renaissance began and ended”:
Wikipedia: “The Harlem Renaissance (also known as the Black Literary Renaissance and The New Negro Movement) refers to the flowering of African American cultural and intellectual life during the 1920s and 1930s. At the time, it was known as the "New Negro Movement", named after the anthology The New Negro, edited by Alain Locke in 1925. Centered in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, the movement impacted urban centers throughout the United States. Across the cultural spectrum (literature, drama, music, visual art, dance) and also in the realm of social thought (sociology, historiography, philosophy), artists and intellectuals found new ways to explore the historical experiences of black America and the contemporary experiences of black life in the urban North.”
I found an excellent and highly recommended web site called African American Literature that covers African American Literature during the Twentieth Century, including the Harlem Renaissance and is geared to such knowledge being available especially in the educational system. The site includes: “75 novels, poems, autobiographies, and essays along with summaries of the selected literature. Also, we have provided you with some significant events of each decade and the literary themes that African American authors were writing about during that decade.”The array includes:
1920: “The start of the Harlem Renaissance, a period of creativity among Black artists, writers, musicians, and entertainers…”
1930: “With the slowing of African American writing during the Great Depression, African Americans confronted many new challenges and obstacles. During the 1930s, the United States voted for a new president and the government made promises to the African American community that they could not keep. Blacks were fighting for equal pay, educational facilities and equal protection under the law. Black authors voiced their rage and frustrations in their work. They still possessed the same intensities as they did during the Harlem Renaissance but the motivation and themes addressed changed. African American authors tackled themes such as racism, poverty,self-assertion,and race relations. “
1940: “A very transitional period for the United States and for African Americans. The Forties was marked by more African American enlisting in all branches of the military and the start of World War II. During this time period, African Americans were fighting for the right to enlist in combat roles in the armed forces. At this time, Blacks were primarily segregated and assigned only in noncombat roles. Whites responded to Black demands with lynchings, town burnings, and other forms of violence. The authors during this period continued the tradition of race and socially conscious writing. Literature with black themes of struggle, oppression, and daily life were often found in the works of the African American authors.”
1950: “A very politically unstable time for African Americans. Their rights were constantly under attack. All the efforts made during the Forties to integrate the Armed Forces were abolished during the Korean War. A new era of racist assassinations began to occur and African Americans started to take a stand against blatant racism. The NAACP argued cases in Southern states against the discriminatory practices in public schools. In May of 1954, the Brown vs. Board of Education occurred. This case ruled racial segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional. The African American non-violent movement began taking the form of boycotts, sit-ins, and peaceful protests. The African American authors during this decade were writing about love, discrimination, the prison system, protest, black sexuality, and black life in Harlem.”
1960: “considered by many to be the Second Black Renaissance. It was African- American's most significant decade in terms of self-consciousness, goals, and achievements. In contrast, the Harlem Renaissance was in part fostered by white patrons and declined when white's financial support declined after the Crash of 1929. But the 1960s was self-generating, self- determining, and self-sustaining. Many significant events occurred during the 1960s such as the March on Washington, countless civil right demonstrations. The Sixties also saw the assassination of two Black America's greatest leaders: Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. New cries of black nationalism, black separatism, and violent resistance were often heard in African-American communities. The authors during this time addressed such themes as black pride, self- actualization, black sexuality, justice, and race relations.”
1970: “a time when African culture was adopted by African-Americans. The U.S government began to monitor Black organizations. Vietnam War ended and many African Americans soldiers faced many disappointments. Many Black Soldiers found that their lives were not improved by fighting in a war that was not theirs. Shirley Chisolm became the first black woman to run for the U.S. presidency. The Seventies saw the emergence of an open and ongoing discussion among Black men and women on the quality, forms and future of their relationships. African American authors still voiced their frustrations and desires in their writings, but many authors wrote about the same literary themes as in the Sixties.”
1980: “a time in history when Reganomics had expanded the gap in the economy to the point that poverty among blacks was at an all time high. Crack had hit the African American community harder than any other drug in the past. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday was established as a national holiday and Jesse Jackson ran for president. The Eighties was a time when female authors burst onto the scene. Publishing companies witnessed the enhancement of established talent among African American female writers. These writers became apart of America's pop culture and started to float in society's mainstream. African American authors discussed themes such as black female-male relationships, self-identity, and more authors had female main characters depicted in their works.”
1990: “has been categorized as the "Attack on the Black Male." The number of black males being put in prisons and killed on the streets increased tremendously in the nineties. Black on Black crime has risen at an astronomical rate. The nineties saw the Freeing of South Africa, Million Man March, the L.A. Riots, O.J. Simpson trial, increases in police brutality, and the murder of Tupac Shakur. Racial tension has increased dramatically over the decades with church burnings, recorded police beatings, hate crimes, and an attack on affirmative action. Black literature during the Nineties includes themes such as Black female-male relationships, urban life, self-awareness, economic power and black unity.”
In conclusion, Binding Ink would like to ask your support in helping to keep African-American multiculturalism literature alive; merely read, become knowledgeable, enjoy, and most of all - regardless of ethnicity, don’t be afraid to pick up a pen and write. Be a part of and add to future generations of history.
1. Memorial Hall
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